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The Conventional Wisdom

Photograph of Rodin's

Wednesday of the 20th Week in Ordinary Time

Judges 9:6-15; Matthew 20:1-16

Following the commonly accepted wisdom isn’t always the wisest thing to do. Abimelech asked the leaders of Shechem whether they thought it would be better for their people to be led by 70 people or by one. He convinced them to accept one, and he proceeded to murder his 70 brothers. Abimelech proved to be a terrible leader. Shechem soon revolted against him, and he was eventually killed when a woman in a house he was attacking dropped a stone on his head.

In today’s gospel parable, Jesus challenges our commonly accepted notions of what is fair. The master of a vineyard gives the same wage to his day laborers, regardless of when they started their work.  Those who started early grumble with resentment. Those who started work with just an hour to spare are silent. We don’t know if they were overwhelmed with gratitude or simply made a quick get-away to celebrate their good fortune.

The point of this story is two-fold: it demonstrates that the gates of salvation are open to all, and it underscores God’s almost incomprehensible generosity and the richness of his grace.  We live in a world that often demands that there be winners and losers, the chosen and the left behind. The kingdom of God that Jesus proclaimed is a different world, and he invites and challenges us to live in it. jc


Miércoles de la XX semana del tiempo ordinario

Jueces 9,6-15; Mateo 20,1-16

Seguir la sabiduría comúnmente aceptada no siempre es lo más sabio. Abimelec preguntó a los dirigentes de Siquem si pensaban que sería mejor para su pueblo ser dirigido por setenta personas o por una. Los convenció de que aceptaran a uno, y procedió a asesinar a sus 70 hermanos. Abimelec demostró ser un líder terrible. Siquem pronto se rebeló contra él, y acabó muriendo cuando una mujer de una casa que estaba atacando le tiró una piedra a la cabeza.

En la parábola del Evangelio de hoy, Jesús desafía nuestras nociones comúnmente aceptadas de lo que es justo. El dueño de una viña da el mismo salario a sus jornaleros, independientemente de cuándo hayan empezado a trabajar.  Los que empezaron temprano se quejan con resentimiento. Los que empezaron a trabajar con sólo una hora de sobra se callan. No sabemos si estaban abrumados por la gratitud o simplemente hicieron una escapada rápida para celebrar su buena fortuna.

El sentido de esta historia es doble: demuestra que las puertas de la salvación están abiertas para todos, y subraya la generosidad casi incomprensible de Dios y la riqueza de su gracia.  Vivimos en un mundo que a menudo exige que haya vencedores y vencidos, elegidos y excluidos. El reino de Dios que Jesús proclamó es un mundo diferente, y nos invita y desafía a vivir en él. Jc

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Photo by Avery Evans on Unsplash

Signs of Spring

By Fr. Tom Zelinksi, OFM Cap.

In recent years I have been thinking that it’s important for us to look and look again at familiar things so that we really see and appreciate them.

Here in the upper Midwest we are surrounded by signs of spring. Little ducklings already; soon little geese; buds and new leaves on trees; soon new fawns will appear. The birds flutter in their nest building. Hummingbirds, tiny creatures, return after traveling hundreds, maybe thousands of miles from their winter homes.

The skeptic may say “So what? This all happens every year.” Indeed it does, and it all appears like so many miracles. We ought to pay attention. Against this backdrop of the “peaceable kingdom,” we see less appealing news. I saw a scary statistic that said 75% of all plastic is NOT recycled. Where does it end up? Our planet home is sick. We need to do better for the sake of all the creatures, including ourselves.

There is the steady drumbeat of war and violence in the news; some things seem downright evil.  I watch the silent holy deer in our woods and ask “How can there be evil in such a world?”

We come back to ourselves in the springtime. Can we look, and look again, and appreciate what we see? Can we find peace and justice in ourselves and share these with all neighbors?


By Fr. Tom Zelinski, OFM Capuchin

This week we read Matthew Chapter 5 in our daily Mass readings: the Sermon on the Mount. We start with the Beatitudes. Jesus teaches from a hilltop. Perhaps this reflects the Old Testament story of Moses and the Ten Commandments. Jesus is sometimes seen as the New Moses.

But the Beatitudes are not so much commandments as they are an invitation to see and appreciate what is already part of our humanity. Jesus says “Blessed are they . . .” Another word would be “Happy.” And the beginning statement is perhaps the key. Blessed, happy are we when we recognize our spiritual poverty. This is not something we work for or try to achieve. If we are honest, we are all poor and needy before God and each other.

So much of our world runs on ego: be first, be a winner, be self-sufficient, be in control. Soon we might add: be miserable, be angry, don’t trust anyone, be afraid of anyone “different” from me.

Jesus tells us happiness comes from facing our vulnerable reality, our need for others, accepting times when we must weep,
even times when we are persecuted for doing good. And there are things to do: be a peacemaker, hunger and thirst for righteousness. This way to happiness may not appear in the advertising on television.

Building Bridges

By Fr. Tom Nguyen, OFM Cap.

Dignity is a blessing and gift from God that each person has, which cannot be taken away. Today, we are called to stand up for justice through love and peace! We must find ways to build bridges that lead from the cross to resurrection. May we pray for greater awareness of human dignity and work together to build a world grounded in the Gospel life. Look another in the eye and see them as your brother and sister!

Holy Trinity

By Fr. Tom Zelinski, OFM Capuchin

This Sunday we honor the Holy Trinity. Don’t try to “understand” the Trinity. It’s natural to try to think about the Trinity, to imagine what God “looks like.” We tend to think in pictures, but we are dealing in the realm of spirit and mystery.

We have all seen the old pictures: an old man along with a younger man along with a dove. That is someone’s poor attempt at picturing what can’t be pictured.

What does the Bible say? In the First Letter of John we are told that God is love and that whoever lives in love lives in God, and God lives in that person. If God equals love, then we seem to be dealing with relationship. God is a constant, dynamic, interactive relationship of love, which then invites us to be a part of that love.

We say God is a mystery. That does not mean we can’t understand God at all. We can understand in part, but then we are invited to go in deeper. If God is love, then what do we already know of love? We look around at good people. We see kindness,  compassion, service, sympathy. These are signs of the loving presence of God in people. So with God we “understand” by getting involved in the mystery. We see and receive love, and we share love with others. We do not so much “think God” as we “act God” in participating in the flow of love in the world. Creator, Savior, Sanctifier, You, Me.

Facing our Truth

By Fr. Tom Zelinksi, OFM Capuchin

These days, some sad and disturbing news comes to us. We hear of questionable actions by a police officer, a man dies, angry people respond with violent action. This is a scene all too often repeated. What might we think about all this?

I have never been a police officer. I do not know the burden and the fear in that position. It is often a thankless job. Yet we need police to help keep order in our society. But I also have not walked in the shoes of my African-American brothers and sisters. I have not known their inner experience of being judged or feared simply because of the color of their skin. I have not felt their experience of being stopped by police. A common expression is that some are stopped for “driving while Black.”

All of these troubling events remain the heritage of our history of slavery. White people brought slaves from Africa and then resented them for being who they were: probably the sting of a guilty conscience. We call that whole story the sin of racism.

What is any of us to do? As with so many things, it could start by looking within. What does my conscience tell me about my own thoughts and feelings? How do I respond at the sight of someone who looks different from me? How might I be led to wrongly judge people simply by appearance? How well do I live the message of Matthew 25, where Jesus tells us that what we do for any brother or sister, we do for him?

Getting it Together

By Fr. Tom Zelinski, OFM Capuchin

Since Ascension Day, I have been thinking about the behavior of the disciples as mentioned in the First Reading and the Gospel of the feast. In the First Reading they are asking Jesus if he is going to restore the Kingdom of Israel. It sounds like they still did not understand that Jesus was not about to restore an earthly kingdom.

Even after all his teaching, they still didn’t “get it.” (Acts 1:6) Then in the Gospel it says they “worshiped, but they doubted” as they met Jesus again after the Resurrection. (Matthew 28:16-20) Doubted what? That this was really Jesus with them? Doubted his message? Doubted what they had seen in his healing ministry?

In other words, at this time, as Jesus was about to physically leave, and he was about to hand on his mission to them, they still did not “have it all together.” They were a work in progress. They had yet to experience Pentecost. But all this is to remind us that no one is an “instant saint.” These men and women had to deepen and grow in their relationship with God in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Does that sound familiar? Some of us, even at an advanced age — and I include myself — remain works in progress and don’t “have it all together.” The Holy Spirit continues to work in us, using even our weakness and mistakes to do some good in the world. “After all these years I should be more charitable, patient, hopeful, kind, should be better at praying.” Yes. Amen.

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